Monday, September 22, 2008

The 400 Blows - Francois Truffaut

The film "The 400 Blows," tells the story of a somewhat troubled youth struggling with the common issue of a lack of social belonging. Francois Truffaut, being an advocate for the evolution of film, or in this case a pioneer in the French New Wave of cinema, decided to make his first full length feature a depiction of his very own bittersweet childhood. This concept alone was a relatively new approach to the hero, or the anti-hero, featured in a movie of the era. To create the very essence of this inner struggle to find one's self, a new more modern approach needed to be taken, to start Truffaut's career, and to ultimately push the industry to the limits.

We begin with wide panning shots of the city of Paris, with a final extended shot of the Eiffel Tower, showing the spaciousness and freedom the city can offer, but in this specific case, the freedom is not enough. By filming this scene in the open Paris city, Truffaut is really able to capture the sense of scale associated with a large city.

The techniques used to focus on each individual's facial expression throughout the film give the viewer a more empathetic role in watching the film, relating to the young main character. Even when in dialogue with the adults, the use of alternating close ups helps the viewer to see the obvious attitudes everyone has regarding the young Antoine. This quiet, covert manipulation of his feelings eventually leads him to seek an out, a way out of criminal behavior, delinquency, and a bad family atmosphere.

The particular actor Truffaut begins his career working with has a very stoic, yet mischievous demeanor, ultimately a product of his environment. The choice to have the main character somewhat shut off and disconnected, I feel, only aids in helping the audience connect. It turns the story away from just being about young Antoine, or young Truffaut, and more just about a child, a child very similar to you or I.

Many critics argue that the end of this film offers no closure, no summation of the events into a nice neat package to mentally organize. This is another example of the modern school of thought regarding film, in that there does not explicitly need to be a proper aspect of closure. This story in particular should not offer closure. The boy escapes, he runs away and finds his long sought freedom along the beaches and the sea. Thinking ahead, what is next for this boy? His future is still uncertain, and by ending on a prolonged image of his face, looking deep into his lost eyes, we understand that he does not know. He has found his temporary satisfaction, but in the end, who knows what will happen to us next. This message is how Truffaut chooses to close the film, and with it, Truffaut closes the first chapter of his film career.

It is quite prolific that Antoine pondering his future in the closing of this movie, portrays a young Francois Truffaut contemplating his very future, and the very future of cinema in general.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008